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Yoho National Park gets its name from the Cree expression for “wonder and awe”, which should tell you something about just how beautiful this place is! It’s not as well known as nearby destinations like Golden, BC, or Banff and Jasper in Alberta, but we think that’s actually a good thing because it’s significantly less busy here, but there’s still lots to do.
The park is perhaps best known for Emerald Lake, which we actually think is one of the best lakes to visit in the Rockies. While you can come to Yoho just to see the lake’s famous green waters, we highly recommend sticking around to explore and go hiking, spot wildlife, and visit waterfalls.
If you’re anything like us and love spending time in the great outdoors, then you should definitely add Yoho National Park to your list of places to visit in the Canadian Rockies. We’ve put together this guide containing everything you need to know to plan your visit to this awesome and underrated national park!
Don’t have time to read the full article? Yoho National Park in British Columbia is absolutely stunning and full of adventure. Explore its extensive hiking trails, find its hidden gems on a guided tour, or even spot some grizzly-filled wildlife! You can also camp at Yoho, or stay in the gorgeous Emerald Lake Lodge if you’re on holiday.
- 1. About Yoho National Park
- 2. Where is Yoho National Park?
- 3. When is the best time to visit Yoho National Park?
- 4. Can you visit Yoho National Park in winter?
- 5. Is it free to visit Yoho National Park?
- 6. Where are the best places to visit Yoho National Park from?
- 7. What are the best tours to Yoho National Park?
- Small-Group Yoho Hidden Gems Tour
- Full-Day Private Tour Banff and Yoho National Park
- Lake Louise and Yoho National Park from Calgary or Banff
- Discover Grizzly Bears from Banff
- Rockies Select 2-Day Tour (Banff/Yoho National Parks)
- 3-Day Rockies Classic Tour (Yoho and Jasper National Parks)
- Fairmont Experience 5-Day Tour in the Rockies – Banff, Jasper, and Yoho
- 8. What are the best things to see and do in Yoho National Park?
- Visit Emerald Lake
- Laughing Falls
- Takakkaw Falls
- Twin Falls
- Stay at the Emerald Lake Lodge
- Iceline Trail
- The Natural Bridge
- The Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint
- Lake O'Hara
- McArthur Pass
- Sherbrooke Lake
- Wapta Falls
- Paget Lookout/Paget Peak
- Visit Yoho National Park Visitor Centre
- Faeder Lake
- Spot wildlife
- Burgess Shale Fossil Hike
- Finn Creek
- 9. What are the best campsites in Yoho National Park?
- 10. Where are the best places to stay inside Yoho National Park?
- 11. How long do you need to visit Yoho National Park?
- 12. Tips for visiting Yoho National Park
- 13. Is visiting Yoho National Park worth it?
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1. About Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park was established in 1886, making it the second-oldest national park in Canada (tied with Glacier National Park, which was founded on the same day). It’s within the traditional territories of the Secwepemc and Ktunaxa First Nations, who used to pass through the area to go bison hunting.
The park is home to lots of interesting natural attractions, including Emerald Lake, Kicking Horse Pass, and the Spiral Tunnels. There are also over 400 kilometers (248 miles) of hiking trails in the park, which is great news if you love to hike as much as we do!
The park gets over 500,000 visitors a year, so we can’t quite say it’s off the beaten path, but when you consider that Banff National Park welcomes over 4 million tourists annually, Yoho National Park does offer a much less crowded experience.
2. Where is Yoho National Park?
Yoho National Park is in the Canadian Rockies, in British Columbia. It borders Banff National Park to the east, and it’s very accessible. The park is 86.7 kilometers (53.8 miles) from Banff, so it takes about an hour to drive between the two. It’s even closer to Lake Louise, which is just 31.8 kilometers (19.7 miles) away, or about a 30-minute drive. It’s also easy to visit from Canmore which is 101 kilometers (62.7 miles) away.
Banff, Lake Louise, and Canmore are all east of Yoho National Park, but it’s also pretty close to Golden, BC, an underrated small town that’s 58.7 kilometers (36.4 miles) west of the park. We absolutely love Golden and there are so many epic things to do there, so you should definitely consider exploring this gem of a town while you’re in the area.
3. When is the best time to visit Yoho National Park?
It’s generally best to visit Yoho National Park in the summer, as this is when you can make the most of the park’s many hiking trails and see Emerald Lake at its most brilliant.
However, the park can get busy during the summer, so we recommend visiting fairly early in the morning, which is also one of the best times of the day to see wildlife! Similarly, the park quiets down later on in the afternoon, and dusk is also prime time to see animals.
4. Can you visit Yoho National Park in winter?
Yes, you definitely can! Emerald Lake is absolutely beautiful during the winter and there are lots of opportunities for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on and around the lake, which is really cool.
Backcountry skiing is really popular around here and the Emerald Lake Slide Path is one of the best runs in the area with unbeatable views of the President Mountain Range. There are also lots of short trails in the rest of the park with little elevation change, so you can explore them as long as you’ve got the right equipment, like microspikes/crampons, and hiking poles.
The Emerald Lake Lodge is also open in the winter, and it’s a LOT cheaper to stay here in the off-season. You’ll feel like you stepped into a Hallmark Christmas movie with the scenery around here, and every room (which are basically tiny cabins) has its own cozy fireplace.
You can even join one of the best winter tours from Banff that includes a stop here. This full-day tour also stops at the iconic Lake Louise, Vermillion Lakes, and Emerald Lake, so it’s a triple threat of amazing wintery lakes. For $160 CAD, the tour also includes roundtrip transportation from Banff or Calgary, entrance fees to Banff and Yoho National Park, and your local guide.
5. Is it free to visit Yoho National Park?
Yes, as long as you have a Canada Parks Pass. If you’re staying in Banff or Lake Louise, then you should already have one of these. If you’re staying in Golden, you can purchase a pass at the visitor center in town. You can also pay for a pass at the Yoho National Park Visitor Centre or you can also buy a Parks Pass online (the visitor center is also closed between October and April).
If you’re just visiting for a day or two, the pass is $11 CAD per person per day or $22 CAD for a family/group of up to seven people in the same vehicle. There are also yearly passes available – I’ll outline all the options more below!
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $11 CAD
- Senior (65+) is $9.50 CAD
- Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE
Group Daily Admission:
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)
- $22.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day
Parks Canada Discovery Pass
The “Discovery Pass”Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.
- Adult (age 18-64) – $75.25 CAD
- Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
- Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 CAD
Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!
Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.
6. Where are the best places to visit Yoho National Park from?
Field is actually situated inside of Yoho National Park, so it’s a great base for exploring! It’s home to the Yoho Visitor Centre, which is handy for getting information about conditions before you head out on a hike, and there are lots of excellent trails close by. Field is a really small town with a population of fewer than 200 people, and it’s got a very quaint, charming, and super friendly feel to it.
Lake Louise is a super famous place in the Canadian Rockies, and although it’s a small mountain village, there are lots of cool things to do here besides just visiting the well-known lake. It’s one of our favorite places in the entire country, and there are so many pristine wilderness spots to explore.
Plus, the lake is a great ski destination during the winter! Lake Louise is only 31.8 km (19.8 miles) from Yoho National Park, so it’s just a 30-minute drive away.
Located 57.7 km (35.8 miles) from Yoho National Park, Golden is an amazing, severely underrated small town with a ton of awesome attractions, from walking across the new Golden Skybridge to whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River.
Golden is actually surrounded by six national parks, so it’s an awesome base for exploring the Canadian Rockies, and we’re actually pretty taken with its old-world downtown area, too.
Banff is an hour’s drive from Yoho National Park, and you probably don’t need us to tell you that it’s one of the most famous places in the Canadian Rockies. We’ve been there dozens (if not hundreds) of times, and we’re yet to get bored of it! You can stay in Banff all year round and since it’s 86.7 km (53.8 miles) from Yoho, you can easily take a day trip to explore the park.
We lived in Canmore so obviously, we’re a bit biased towards it, but come on, what’s not to love about a beautiful mountain playground with awesome hiking trails, lots of skiing opportunities, and a buzzing craft beer scene?
Canmore is just a little further from Yoho National Park than the destinations we’ve listed above, but it still only takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to make the 109 km (67.7 miles) journey by car. Plus, because it isn’t inside a national park, it’s usually cheaper to stay in Canmore (although you will still need a Parks Pass to enter Yoho National Park).
Revelstoke is 203 kilometers (126 miles) from Yoho National Park, so it takes just over 2 hours to drive there. It’s yet another charming mountain town, and it’s surrounded by picturesque scenery, which you can explore by hiking its many top-notch trails.
Winter in Revelstoke is a fantastic time to hit the slopes or try your hand at cross-country skiing, and we were also pretty impressed with its food scene, too. Oh, and if you need to warm up, some of the best hot springs in BC are nearby!
Calgary is 212 kilometers (131.7 miles) from Yoho National Park, so a day trip is definitely possible. It’s super accessible as lots of people fly in and out of the airport here, but it’s also a really cool destination in itself. It’s a sunny, laidback city with lots of culture to explore, and some of the Rockies’ most beautiful destinations within easy reach.
Related Read: If you’re planning a Canadian road trip through the mountains, let us help! We have tons of road trip guides like the best stops on the way from Canmore to Lake Louise or the drive from Calgary to Golden.
7. What are the best tours to Yoho National Park?
If driving to Yoho National Park isn’t in the plans, or you’re just looking for a cool experience where someone else does all the planning, a tour is a great choice! These are our favorite tours of Yoho National Park with options leaving from Banff, Calgary, and Canmore.
Small-Group Yoho Hidden Gems Tour
If there’s one thing you can say about Yoho National Park, it’s that it’s full of hidden gems that many travelers to BC don’t see! So why not join the adventurous few who travel here on this small-group, full-day experience?
With stops at Emerald Lake, the Spiral Tunnels, and Takakkaw Falls to name just a couple, it’s safe to say that your camera will be stuffed with epic photos by the end of the day! I also love that this tour is capped at just 12 people maximum, so you won’t be feeling like a sardine packed away, but free to enjoy the stories told by your guide as you visit each of these epic locations.
Tickets for this tour cost $288 CAD per person, this tour meets at the front of the Banff Train Station building, however, they do also offer select hotel pick-ups in Banff and Lake Louise. To see which dates are available and book your tickets, you can click here.
Full-Day Private Tour Banff and Yoho National Park
This full-day private tour is similar to the tour mentioned above, except you’ll have even more time to see all the unique and beautiful locations in the Rockies. It also hits Emerald Lake and the mighty 373 meters (1,224 ft) Takakkaw Falls, which is the second-tallest waterfall in Canada!
Since it’s just you and your group, you can customize it to ensure that you get to visit all of your must-see natural attractions in Yoho National Park and beyond.
This tour includes all of your transportation from your desired pick-up location in Banff and up to 10 hours of exploring. Ticket prices do vary depending on how many people attend – if you rustle together the full group of 14 people, then it costs just $273 CAD per person! You can check availability online and book your spot online here.
Lake Louise and Yoho National Park from Calgary or Banff
Since Lake Louise and Yoho National Park are so close together, it makes perfect sense to visit them on the same day if you’re coming from Banff or Calgary. This full-day combo tour takes you to visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, which we think is great because arranging your own transport to these lakes can be a bit of a nightmare for various reasons, and then onto Yoho National Park to marvel at Emerald Lake, the Natural Bridge, and the Spiral Tunnels.
The tour costs $160 CAD per person, which we think is pretty good given how much you get to see in one day. It includes all of your transport from the meeting point in either Calgary or Banff, your national park fees, and 20 minutes of snowshoeing during the winter months, although lunch is on your own account. As this tour operates on certain days of the week, make sure to book this tour in advance to secure the dates you want!
Discover Grizzly Bears from Banff
We’re massive nature lovers, so for us, spotting bears is one of the most exciting things about visiting this part of Canada. However, sightings are never guaranteed, which is why this grizzly bear tour is so great!
You’ll start the day by exploring Yoho National Park, specifically Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake. There’s a ton of wildlife throughout the park and your guide will help you to spot bears and other animals found around Banff and Yoho like elk, deer, and moose. We’ve found this to be one of the best wildlife tours offered in Banff and the surrounding area!
The tour also includes a scenic gondola ride up Kicking Horse Mountain and lunch at Eagle’s Eye restaurant at the top. This is actually the highest restaurant in Canada, and it’s pretty fancy, so enjoying a meal here is a real treat!
After lunch, you’ll take a chairlift ride even higher up the mountain to the wildlife refuge, where you’ll get to see and learn about Boo, the famous resident grizzly! What we like about this place is that Boo gets to live in a natural mountain environment, just as he would in the wild.
This tour costs $312 CAD, and we think it’s an awesome day out since everything you need is included, like transport from Banff, your gondola and chairlift rides, and even lunch. Get ready to spot grizzly bears and other amazing creatures by booking this tour online!
Rockies Select 2-Day Tour (Banff/Yoho National Parks)
As you might be able to guess from the sheer volume of blog content we’ve created around the Canadian Rockies, there is a TON to see in this part of the world. So if you’ve got time, this 2-day tour lets you see even more of the epic natural beauty that Banff and Yoho National Parks have to offer.
From $550 CAD per person for a couple or $469 CAD each for a group of 4, this tour includes an overnight stay in a 3-star hotel, all of your transport from Banff or Calgary, and breakfast. You get to see a ton of awesome places that the single-day tours tend to skip over. You can also opt to include the Banff Gondola in the tour for a slightly higher price. We especially like that on the first day you get to see the Banff Hoodoos because we actually missed them ourselves the first few times we visited Banff.
Day one of this tour focuses on Banff including the gorgeous Johnston Canyon, but on day two you’ll also visit Yoho National Park to see Emerald Lake, the Spiral Tunnels, and the Natural Bridge, before visiting Lake Louise and Moraine Lake later on in the day.
If you have a few days in the Rockies, you can grab a spot on this 2-day tour here.
3-Day Rockies Classic Tour (Yoho and Jasper National Parks)
Do you have a little more time on your hands? This 3-day Rockies experience explores many of the biggest highlights that BC has to offer, including some of my favorites, like the Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise, and let’s not forget famous Yoho National Park landmarks like Emerald Lake and the Spiral Tunnels!
The first day of this tour includes an in-depth tour of Yoho National Park, where you’ll be provided with expert commentary along the way (think local stories, facts, and more!) – this is always my favorite part of any tour, and the guides on this experience do an excellent job.
With accommodation in a 3-star hotel included, as well as breakfast on days two and three, tickets for this tour start at $956 CAD per person. It’s also a great middle-ground between the last tour I mentioned and the next one, so depending on your budget and time allowance, this might be right for you! You can check availability and book your place online here.
Fairmont Experience 5-Day Tour in the Rockies – Banff, Jasper, and Yoho
This 5-day tour takes you to not one, not two, but three incredible national parks so that you get to see pretty much all of the highlights of the Canadian Rockies on one incredible whirlwind trip! From the Columbia Icefield and Maligne Lake to Bow Falls and Johnston Canyon, you’ll see all of the most beautiful sites in Alberta without having to lift a finger, because everything will be taken care of for you.
But what we find most exciting about this tour is that it includes a night at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a historic castle that’s basically been plucked out of a storybook! It’s a true bucket list stay and definitely not something you get to do every day.
This tour costs $1,873 CAD per person (or $1,321 CAD each for a group of 4), so it’s definitely not cheap, but given how much accommodation and renting a car in the Rockies can cost, it might not cost you that much more than if you were to organize everything yourself.
We really think that this is the ultimate way to experience the Rockies in just 5 days, so don’t forget to check your dates and book your spot on this tour online with Viator in advance!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
8. What are the best things to see and do in Yoho National Park?
Visit Emerald Lake
Visiting Emerald Lake is hands down the most popular thing to do in Yoho National Park. It’s a gorgeous green lake that you can hike around, canoe across, or even swim in (although the water is pretty cold!). We actually think that this is one of the best lakes in the Rockies to visit, especially given how crowded Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are becoming.
You can visit Emerald Lake all year round, but the water is at its most striking during the summer in July and August. If you decide to visit in summer, make sure to try and get there before 10 am so that you can get a parking spot because the lot does fill up pretty quickly.
Doesn’t visiting Laughing Falls sound like a blast? I mean, the good vibes are baked right into the name! Laughing Falls are 30 meters (98 feet) high, and the cheerful name comes from the sound the water makes as it flows over the rocks. You can basically feel it vibrating through your entire body!
The best way to access these falls is to hike from Takakkaw Falls to Laughing Falls, which is 4.2 km (2.6 miles) each way. It’s an intermediate trail, and it’s pretty easy to follow, so most visitors shouldn’t have too much of a problem with this one. Plus, there are some cool natural attractions to enjoy along the way, including a quick detour to see Point Lace Falls and the Yoho Gorge!
Takakkaw Falls is the second-highest waterfall in Canada at 373 meters (1,224 feet) high, and it’s an absolute must-visit while you’re in Yoho National Park. Watching the water cascade down the rock face is absolutely mesmerizing, especially because the mist creates multiple rainbows at the bottom.
Not only is this waterfall stunning, but it’s also super easy to visit. You can even just observe it from the parking lot if you don’t want to hike, but we do recommend doing the 1.4-kilometer (0.9-mile) Takakkaw Falls hike to see the falls up close. The path is super flat and well-maintained.
Twin Falls is a double waterfall where the two streams of water converge to make a super impressive splash! The hike to Twin Falls is an extension of the hike to Laughing Falls, so it also begins at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. It’s a 16.4-km (10-mile) out-and-back hike, so you can do it in a day or stay overnight at the Twin Falls Campground.
If you do the entire Twin Falls Hike you get to see Takakkaw Falls, Laughing Falls, and Twin Falls all in one day, so we recommend it if you’re a hiking fan – we loved it. One of the highlights of this hike is visiting the Twin Falls Teahouse while you enjoy views of the majestic falls. Plus, after 3 hours of hiking, you’ll definitely be ready for some refreshments!
Related Read: Another nearby hike to a teahouse you don’t want to miss is the trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House!
Stay at the Emerald Lake Lodge
The Emerald Lake Lodge is a historic lodge that’s on a peninsula that juts out into the lake. It’s absolutely stunning – I mean, really, what gets better than staying in the middle of one of the Rockies’ most beautiful lakes? For us, this property is a real bucket list stay.
One of the best things about staying at the Emerald Lake Lodge is that you can enjoy the stunning sunrises and sunsets over the lake from your room, and you don’t need to worry about the parking situation. Rooms can cost as little as $200 CAD during the off-season, rising to around $850-$900 CAD per night during the peak of summer, so take this into account when budgeting for your stay!
The Iceline Trail is a 21.7 km (13.4 miles) loop hike with stunning views of alpine meadows, glaciers, and waterfalls. In fact, you get way better views of Takakkaw Falls along this trail than you do from the usual viewpoint below the falls.
You can do this hike in a single day, but since it’s so long and has a 710-meter (2,329-foot) change in elevation gain, you will need the entire day to do it. It’s not super difficult but you will need decent endurance levels!
The Iceline Trail begins at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot, and there’s clear signage the entire way, so you don’t need to be an expert to find the trail for this one. However, what does confuse a lot of people is the fact that the Iceline Trail is actually only 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles) long, but the entire hike that most people do consists of several interlinking trails.
It’s always a good idea to download an offline map before you go, but basically, you’ll start with the Takakkaw Falls to Yoho Lake Trail for about 1 km/0.6 miles, then take the Yoho Lake Trail for 2.6 km/1.6 miles until you get to the official Iceline Trail, which is the longest section of the hike. After that, you’ll take the Little Yoho Valley Trail and the Yoho Valley Trail, which will lead you back to Takakkaw Falls.
What we love about this hike is that it’s a loop, so you don’t double back on yourself and get to see a huge variety of scenery along the way. In our opinion, this hike is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of Yoho National Park!
The Natural Bridge
The Natural Bridge is a beautiful rock formation over the Kicking Horse River just 3 km (1.9 miles) from Field. Over thousands of years, water eroded the soft rock beneath a hard limestone band, creating a bridge. It’s very cool to see the Natural Bridge and it’s a pretty quick stop. The turn-off for the bridge is along Emerald Lake Road, so you can stop to check it out on your way to or from the famous lake!
What we also like about the Natural Bridge is that it’s an excellent place to spot wildlife because animals like moose and elk are attracted to the mineral lick. If you’re really keen to see these animals, try to visit early in the morning or around dusk, as this is when they tend to be most active.
The Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint
The Spiral Tunnels were built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in the early 1900s so that trains could easily pass over the famously steep Kicking Horse Pass. Two spiral tunnels were built to allow trains to gain and lose elevation without losing control, and they were so successful that they’re still in use today!
You can drive to the Spiral Tunnels Viewpoint and if you’re lucky, you might even see a train passing through while you’re admiring the tunnels. You can also explore the Walk in the Past educational trail which teaches you all about the history of Canada’s locomotive industry and offers more great views of the tunnels.
Lake O’Hara is absolutely stunning, but it’s not easy to access. It’s famed for its dramatic landscape and jaw-dropping views and also how purposely difficult it is to get to. Still, once you’ve seen a photo of this incredible lake, it’s only natural to want to try to get there.
Basically, Lake O’Hara is situated along an 11-kilometer (6.3 mile) access road – which is all uphill! The only vehicle allowed along this road is the Parks Canada shuttle, but it’s really difficult to get tickets.
Parks Canada has used a lottery system to allocate tickets. They limit the number of people who can visit to preserve Lake O’Hara’s sensitive alpine environment, which we can get on board with! The parks service will announce a time and day that the reservations “launch” so you can log in at that time to try and secure a reservation. This is typically at the end of January to February, so you can keep an eye out for the ticket release here!
There are some fees to reserve the Lake O’Hara shuttle. It is $14.70 CAD for adults and $7.30 CAD for children 6-16 (under 5s are free) for the roundtrip bus transportation. There is also an $11.70 CAD reservation fee per party that is unfortunately nonrefundable if you don’t win the lottery.
When you apply, you can choose up to 6 dates and times to ride the shuttle. If you do get a seat, you’ll find out in May when you can go to Lake O’Hara. If not, you’ll need to wait until the following year.
Your other alternative is to walk along the road and camp overnight. You could technically walk there and back in a day, but only if you’re super fit since it’s pretty steep when you’re going uphill!
The Lake O’Hara campground only has 30 tent sites available, and you’ll need to reserve your spot online via the Parks Canada website. Reservations are live by the end of January, however, dates can vary year by year. You can camp for up to 3 nights in a row, and you can have one 4-person tent per site.
Yes, we know this all sounds like a huge hassle (and to be honest, it is) but Lake O’Hara is so stunning that it really is worth jumping through all of Parks Canada’s hoops!
Yoho National Park is definitely not short on epic hiking trails! One thing I didn’t mention about the Lake O’Hara area is that you’ll find lots of other fun trails here to explore, which are very well-signposted and will really help to get you off the beaten path. One of my favorites is the trail to Lake McArthur, following McArthur Pass.
This moderately challenging 3.5 km (2.2 miles) return trail starts from the Le Relais shelter, which is on the western shore of Lake O’Hara. It took me about 2.5 hours to walk the entire trail to the lake and back, and my favorite part had to be walking through the meadows, which were covered in gorgeous wildflowers!
In my opinion, the best time to walk this trail is from late June through to October, as by this time the snow has melted and the flowers will be out. If you’re lucky enough to get a camping spot at Lake O’Hara or a shuttle ticket, then I’d really recommend this trail!
You’ll also need a national parks pass to do the hike, so keep this in mind, and I highly suggest carrying bear spray with you too, as this is grizzly territory.
The hike from Wapta Lake to Sherbrooke Lake is a great family-friendly thing to do in Yoho National Park. The trail is 9.3 kilometers (5.8 miles) out and back, so it should take you 2 to 3 hours depending on your pace.
To get started, park in the small lot across from Wapta Lake along the Trans Canada Highway and check out the views before you head into the forest in the other direction towards Sherbrooke Lake.
It’s a gradual uphill climb, but nothing too strenuous, and when you get to the lake itself you’ll be blown away by its bright turquoise waters which, in true Rockies style, are surrounded by rugged mountain peaks. There are even a couple of rocky beaches around the lakeshore where you can sit and relax before heading back to the car.
Wapta Falls are located along the Kicking Horse River, and you can visit them year-round, although they’re especially stunning in winter when they freeze over!
It’s a flat 4.8-kilometer (3-mile) hike from the main parking lot for the Wapta Falls Trail. However, the road to the trailhead is closed during the winter so you’ll have to park on the side of the Trans Canada Highway and snowshoe to the official trailhead, which adds an extra 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) each way.
Paget Lookout/Paget Peak
You might have heard of the fire watch towers that were built in the early 20th century so that forest fires could quickly be spotted and tackled before they got out of control. Well, Yoho National Park is home to a few of them, including the scenic Paget Lookout, which you can visit for yourself!
What I like about the hike to Paget Lookout is that it’s actually split into two parts, the fairly straightforward hike to the lookout, followed by the optional, but definitely challenging hike up to Paget Peak. If you’ve got plenty of hiking experience under your belt, then the complete hike is so, so worth it.
The trailhead shares parking with the hike to Sherbrooke Lake, and it’s about 7 km (4.3 mi) return up to the lookout and back. If you want to go a step further, you can carry on to Paget Peak (another 2.8 km/1.7 mi return). Again, this second half is definitely for experienced hikers, and I highly recommend good hiking boots as well as a jacket and a windbreaker.
Visit Yoho National Park Visitor Centre
It’s always a good idea to head to a national park’s visitor center before you head out on your adventures, and we found that the one in Yoho National Park was excellent. There was lots of information about the best things to do in the park and the conditions of the day, as well as its natural and cultural history. Plus, the staff were really helpful!
The visitor center is in the town of Field, which, as you may remember, is actually inside Yoho National Park. It’s only open between May and October, but if you’re visiting during the summer, it’s a great place to start and plan your day.
Faeder Lake is a small, shallow, and scenic lake that’s a quick and easy stop on your Yoho National Park itinerary! There’s a picnic area right across from the lake, so this is the perfect place to stop for lunch. Plus, it’s only 30 seconds from the parking lot to the lake itself, so there’s no hiking involved.
Yoho National Park is teeming with wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled. You can see grizzly and black bears in the park during summer, and you can spot moose all year round (although these are some of the most difficult animals to spot!).
The park is also home to elk, deer, marmots, mountain goats, and more, so you’re bound to spot something while you’re here. There’s nowhere specific that you need to go to spot wildlife, but if you spend time exploring the lakes, hiking trails, and scenic spots we’ve been talking about in this blog then there’s a good chance you’ll spot some interesting creatures along the way.
If seeing wildlife here in Yoho is at the top of your list of things to do (and why wouldn’t it be?), then dedicating a day to this discovery grizzly-bears tour I mentioned earlier will give you the best chances of seeing them!
Burgess Shale Fossil Hike
What a lot of people don’t know about Yoho National Park is that it’s actually home to the oldest-known evidence of complex life on Earth: the Burgess Shale fossils!
These fossils demonstrate the link between species that walk the Earth today and ones that lived over 500 million years ago, which is absolutely mind-boggling. Also, these fossils aren’t just bones – you can see all the gory details, like innards and eyeballs!
You can’t visit these fossils independently, but Parks Canada offers three different guided hikes to see the Burgess Shale fossils, so if you’re interested in natural history then definitely book one of these!
You don’t hear a lot about Finn Creek, but we think it’s stunning! The bright blue water runs through a narrow canyon, and it’s surrounded by forests and mountains. Plus, it’s super easy to access as it’s right alongside the Trans Canada Highway, so you don’t need to hike to get to this scenic spot. It’s a nice, quick stop, but definitely one that’s worth adding to your itinerary.
9. What are the best campsites in Yoho National Park?
Takakkaw Falls Campground
You’ll feel tucked away in the wilderness if you stay overnight at the primitive Takakkaw Falls Campground. It’s right next to Takakkaw Falls, which means that you’ll wake up to some seriously amazing views. Plus, you’ll be right next to the trailhead for several of the hikes we’ve mentioned in this blog: Laughing Falls, Twin Falls, and the epic Iceline Trail.
Takakkaw Falls Campground is a walk-in-only campground, so you’ll park in the lot 300 meters from the campground and pack in your belongings. Unless you want to make multiple trips, I suggest packing light! As for facilities, Takakkaw Falls Campground has outhouse toilets, running water, a sheltered cooking and picnic area, and bear lockers.
You can make reservations for Takakkaw Falls Campground from mid-June through the beginning of October with 35 sites suitable for 4-person tents. It is a relatively small campground, so space is limited and it books up quickly. Camping costs $19.75 CAD per night, so it’s nice and easy on your wallet.
Kicking Horse Campground
We’ve pitched our tent at quite a few sites in Yoho National Park, but we think that Kicking Horse is the best of the bunch in terms of facilities. You can only camp here from late May until early October, and it’s the only campground in the park that requires you to reserve your site in advance, and it costs $30.50 CAD per night.
A quick heads up, most of the tent sites aren’t super private, but obviously, that’s not such an issue if you’re in a campervan or RV. The facilities are great, with flushing toilets, showers, and firepits available, and in terms of location, it’s a 15-minute drive from Emerald Lake.
If you didn’t manage to reserve a spot at Kicking Horse Campground but want to stay close by, then Monarch is your second-choice option. It’s a non-bookable campsite that takes the overflow from Kicking Horse, and to be honest it is a bit of a step-down.
The facilities aren’t as good, as there are no showers and only dry toilets, and it’s right next to the highway so it can be a bit noisy. However, it’s still a good campground overall and for $19.75 CAD, it’s wallet-friendly, too.
Hoodoo Creek Campground
This quiet campground is in an open meadow, half an hour away from Emerald Lake by car. Hoodoo Creek Campground is a great option for hikers because there are some excellent trails nearby, including the famous Hoodoos Trail, as well as Deer Lodge Warden Cabin and Wapta Falls.
There’s not much here in terms of facilities, but there are indoor toilets, fire pits, and a covered cooking area – and really, what more can you expect for $16.75 CAD per night?
This campground is non-bookable and is open from June 15 to September 4, so if you want to camp here the window is narrower than it is for other front country campgrounds in the park. There are 30 sites that are suitable for tents, motorhomes, and trailers, and there’s a maximum of six people per campsite.
Just so that we don’t bore you by repeating ourselves about fees and facilities, there are a couple of things you need to know about the backcountry campgrounds in Yoho National Park.
You need a reservation to stay in any of the backcountry sites, and a backcountry camping permit, which starts from $11 CAD per night. No fires are allowed at these sites, but they do each have tent pads, dry toilets, food storage lockers, and picnic areas. All of the sites cost $13.50 CAD per person per night, plus an additional $11.50 CAD reservation fee.
Lake O’Hara Campground
Lake O’Hara is the crown jewel of Yoho National Park – but like most precious jewels, it’s tightly locked away… Okay, not exactly, but it’s definitely not easy to visit Lake O’Hara, as there are some pretty tight restrictions on visitor numbers. And since Lake O’Hara is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Rockies (and dare we say it, the world), reservations at this campground are in very high demand.
There are only 30 tent sites available at the Lake O’Hara Campground, and they all become available on the same day (the exact date changes from year to year), so you’ll need to plan ahead and book your spot online through the Parks Canada website.
Set an alarm for this one and be on the website before reservations open, because they sell out almost immediately. It feels just like trying to get concert tickets, only for us it’s probably even more nerve-wracking. And if you miss the time or tickets book out too fast, there’s always next year!
That said, if you did just miss out on camping, you can also try to reserve a spot on the Lake O’Hara shuttle, with updates on reservations for the ticket lottery draw being announced in February. You can also still hike the 10-kilometer (6-mile) access road with your gear. It’s all uphill and there’s not really much scenery to enjoy along the way, but when you get to Lake O’Hara, it will all be totally worth it.
Plus, you can stay for up to 3 nights (if you’ve reserved camping in advance), so you don’t have to trudge back down the road again straight away.
Little Yoho Campground
Little Yoho Campground can be found along the Iceline Trail hike, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Takakkaw Falls, so it’s a good option if you want to split the hike into two days. It’s close to the Stanley Mitchell Hut and the Little Yoho River, so there’s plenty to check out nearby.
In the evening, you can also hike the Kiwetinok Trail from the campground to beautiful Kiwetinok Lake, which is about 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) out-and-back.
Laughing Falls Campground
The Laughing Falls Campground is another great place to stay if you want to split the Iceline Trail hike up over multiple days and do a little more exploring. As you can guess from the name, the Laughing Falls are close by, so you could also split the Laughing and Twin Falls hike across two days by staying here.
Twin Falls Campground
The Twin Falls Campground is about 3.5 kilometers (2.1 miles) away from the Laughing Falls Campground and it’s another scenic place to spend the night. You can also hike to Marpole Falls from here, which is about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) each way. For something a bit more chilled, you can also head to the Twin Falls Tea House for scenic views while you sip your tea.
10. Where are the best places to stay inside Yoho National Park?
Emerald Lake Lodge
Emerald Lake Lodge is the kind of place that dreams are made of – a cozy lodge with beautiful rooms, nestled on a peninsula in the heart of one of the Rockies’ most stunning lakes. It’s perfect for a romantic stay and there’s a great upscale restaurant on site, too.
Not only are the views from your room some of the best in the park, but you’ll also avoid the headache of fighting for a parking spot. Prices range from a reasonable $265 CAD per night during shoulder season up to a more costly $850 – $900 CAD per night during peak summer. If you’re planning a summer visit, you need to book online ASAP for the best deals!
HI Yoho National Park, Whiskey Jack Wilderness Hostel
This rustic HI Yoho National Park Whiskey Jack Hostel is located right near the famous Takakkaw Falls, which is not only a great attraction in itself, but also acts as the trailhead for some of Yoho’s best hiking routes.
It’s generally open from late June until September and attracts a friendly, adventurous crowd. It’s currently temporarily closed for building work, but you can find the latest updates, check availability, and book a room once they re-open on Hostelworld.com.
Lake O’Hara Lodge
So, throughout this blog post, we think we’ve established that Lake O’Hara is a true dream-worthy destination. If you’d love to stay overnight at this bucket list-worthy lake but aren’t that keen on camping (or missed out on a spot because of the insane supply and demand issue) then you can book a room at the Lake O’Hara Lodge instead.
This classy lodge is perched right on the edge of this exquisitely beautiful lake, so you really will have the best seat in all of Yoho National Park. As is the case with everything related to Lake O’Hara, bookings at this lodge aren’t that easy to come by. You’ll need to give them a call at (250) 343-6418 between 8:30 am and 2:30 pm on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.
If you’re able to get a reservation (lucky you!), you’ll also need to pay a booking deposit because this place is very in demand. There are only eight rooms in the main lodge (starting at $945 CAD per night for two people) or one of their cabins for $1,335 CAD per night. The rate does include transportation to the lodge down their access road, all your meals, afternoon tea, and taxes, so that helps!
Also, just a heads up: staying at the lodge doesn’t guarantee you a spot on that elusive Parks Canada shuttle. Sorry!
Cathedral Mountain Lodge
The Cathedral Mountain Lodge is perfect if you want a rustic but luxurious vibe while staying in the Rockies. It’s got stone fireplaces, antique furniture, and spacious bathtubs where you can unwind after a day of exploring Yoho National Park. There’s also an excellent restaurant on site, the Great Room Restaurant, which serves up regional, organic cuisine and locally produced wines.
Prices range between $740 – $1,100 CAD per night during the summer, so a stay at this place definitely doesn’t come cheap, but you can’t go wrong here if you’re looking for a luxury stay. You can check availability and book on Booking.com.
The Yoho Chalets are beautiful, airy chalets just steps away from the banks of the Kicking Horse River, so you’ve got views galore in addition to comfy beds, a stone fireplace, and a fully-equipped kitchen. You’ll have plenty of privacy here, and we think that this idyllic spot is perfect for families, since each chalet sleeps up to 6 people.
A one-night stay here in one of their signature chalets costs around $420 CAD per night, however this does fluctuate depending on the season! You can easily book one of the Yoho Chalets online here.
Field is a super charming village with lots of cafés and artisanal shops to check out. Plus, it’s conveniently located inside Yoho National Park, at the base of Yoho Valley Road, so you can easily access all of the park’s top attractions and hiking trails from here.
11. How long do you need to visit Yoho National Park?
You can tick off a few of the park’s highlights in just one day, but we think that it’s best to spend at least one night in the park to really get the most out of it. This way, you can see the top attractions like Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge, and explore some of the amazing hiking trails, too.
Or for the best experience, spend two nights and three days in the park to make sure that you get to fully immerse yourself in its beauty!
12. Tips for visiting Yoho National Park
Bring bear spray
Yoho National Park is amazing for spotting wildlife, but this means bears like it too. Make sure to bring bear spray with you, especially if you’re planning to hike, because there’s a chance that you’ll spot some along the way. Just make sure that you buy a reputable brand and practice using it beforehand.
Download maps offline – spotty (or no) internet service
There’s basically no cell service in Yoho National Park, so make sure you download maps offline before you go. It’s a good idea to do this for maps to all of the spots you want to see, as well as any hiking trails you want to explore. Trust us, it really does make life 10 times easier when you know where you’re going!
Yoho National Park has its own microclimate and the weather can be really unpredictable, so wear layers. It’s a good idea to pack a light waterproof jacket and some light warmer layers that you can remove and stash in your backpack while hiking. And if you’re visiting during winter, hats, scarves, and gloves are a must!
Bring your bathing suit
You can go swimming in Emerald Lake and some of the other lakes and falls in the park, so bring your bathers. We especially like taking a dip in the cold (very cold!!) waters of Emerald Lake after completing one of the nearby hikes! It’s the perfect way to cool off after exploring.
It really does pay to plan ahead when visiting Yoho National Park. We’ve already covered downloading offline maps, but you also need to time your visit so that when you’re heading to busier spots, like Emerald Lake, you can ensure that you’ll be able to get parking.
It’s also a good idea to bring snacks with you as food in the park can be a bit overpriced and there aren’t a ton of options. There’s also not the same abundance of accommodation in Yoho National Park as there is in Banff, so if you want to stay overnight make sure that you book your campsite, hotel, or hostel well in advance to avoid missing out.
13. Is visiting Yoho National Park worth it?
You bet! It may not be as famous as Banff or Jasper National Parks, but it’s way less busy and absolutely stunning. There are some incredible hiking trails here, plenty of great campsites, and enough natural beauty to keep you entertained for a lifetime.
Plus, Emerald Lake really is one of the best lakes in Canada, and it’s way less crowded than some of the more well-known options like Moraine Lake. So all in all, we think a visit here is 100% worth your time.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province, and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
Well, there’s all the info you need to plan your very own visit to Yoho National Park! This park definitely deserves a spot on your trip through the Rocky Mountains. There’s so much to do here, you’ll probably find one visit to Yoho isn’t enough! I know we can’t wait to go back.
If you’re looking for more advice on putting together the ultimate trip in the Rockies, have a look around our other Canada blogs. We’ve lived and traveled extensively across BC and Alberta and love to share our tips and tricks! Here are a couple to get you started: